State bullies refugees to return to Somalia – Amnesty report
‘They are caught between a rock and a hard place. Kenyan government officials are telling them they must leave by the end of the month, or they’ll be forced out’
Kenya is forcing thousands of Somali refugees to go back to their war-torn home, Amnesty International has said.
In the report released yesterday, the London-based rights group said government officials have been threatening refugees to leave before the November 30 deadline.
“The refugees are caught between a rock and a hard place. Kenyan government officials are telling them they must leave by the end of the month or they will be forced to leave without any assistance,” Amnesty International deputy director Michelle Kagari said.
AI said most refugees interviewed said they were only considering leaving the camps because of threats.
“These actions contravene the government’s assurances to the international community that it would ensure all refugee repatriations are voluntary and carried out in safety and dignity,” Kagari said.
In May, the Interior ministry said it would close the Dadaab camp because it is a security threat. It also raised economic and environmental concerns, in addition to lack of support from the international community. There are 280,000 refugees in Dadaaab, mostly Somalis.
Amnesty International researchers said they visited Dadaab in August and interviewed 56 refugees individually and held focus groups with 35 more.
“Kenya’s increased restrictions on Somali refugees comes at a time of shocking failures by rich countries to accept their fair share of responsibility. Rather than focussing on returning refugees to Somalia, where they are at risk of further human rights abuses. The international community should be working with Kenya to ensure longterm sustainable solutions,” Kagari said.
She cited the increase of resettlement places for the most vulnerable refugees as well as Kenya guaranteeing refugees their rights and finding ways to integrate them into host communities away from camps with the support of the international community.
According to UNHCR data, only 34,900 refugees had returned home by last week, with 276,269 still in the camp. Since the start of the repatriation, 99 convoys and 160 flights have left for Somalia, 66,650 refugees have approached the return home help desks, while 66,252 have indicated their desire to go back, the UN agency said.
AI said Kenya has received limited support from the international community. Last year, 5,001 individuals were resettled from Kenya, with more than 3,500 of those going to the USA. Only 671 vulnerable refugees were resettled in EU countries. So far in 2016 there have been 1,648 departures to the USA and 118 to the EU.